United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Southern Division, London
BRENT E. GRIFFIN, Plaintiff,
NANCY J. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER
M. Hood Senior U.S. District Judge.
matter is before the Court on the parties' cross-Motions
for Summary Judgment (DE 17, 19, 21) on Plaintiff's
appeal, pro se, of the Commissioner's denial of an
application for disability insurance benefits. The matter having
been fully briefed by the parties is now ripe for this
2013, Plaintiff filed his current application for
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”), alleging
disability beginning August 19, 2008 (Tr.
152-63). His application was denied at the initial
levels of review and, after a de novo hearing, the ALJ issued
an unfavorable decision on October 14, 2015. (Tr. at 20-36.)
The Appeals Council declined Plaintiff's request for
review (Tr. 6-9), making the ALJ's decision the final
agency decision for purposes of judicial review. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 416.1481, 422.210(a). This appeal followed.
has presented no summation of the record evidence in his
pleadings and has not objected to that presented by the
United States. The Court has reviewed the record and
concludes that the United States' summary accurately
represents the material and will adopt it in large part in
this memorandum opinion and order.
was 43 years old on the date of the ALJ's decision (Tr.
141). He has a high school education with vocational training
in welding (Tr. 232). Plaintiff's past relevant work was
as a truck driver (Tr. 232, 701). Plaintiff alleged he was
disabled due to extreme anger, fainting, dizziness, leg
swelling, depression, chest pain, back pain, a cardiac
condition, and kidney disease (Tr. 231).
had treatment for various conditions including kidney
disease, heart disease, back pain, and mood disorder (Tr.
246, 251-78, 281-99, 381-88, 450-94, 523-29, 530-44,
587-617). In March 2012, an x-ray documented early
degenerative changes in Plaintiff's low back but no disc
herniations or changes of spinal stenosis (Tr. 243).
Cardiologist Ashwani Anand, M.D., treated Plaintiff with
medication management and regular follow up visits (Tr.
244-50, 279-97). He regularly found Plaintiff had normal
heart rate and rhythm with no clicks, murmurs, or rubs;
normal respiratory effort with no increased work of breathing
or signs of respiratory distress and clear lungs; normal
muscle strength, gait, and range of motion; and normal mood
and affect (Tr. 246, 282, 285, 289, 295).
K. Hasni, M.D., treated Plaintiff for kidney disease also
with medications and routine follow up (Tr. 381-88, 587-617).
Treatment notes showed Plaintiff generally denied having any
anxiety, mood changes, difficulty breathing or shortness of
breath, numbness, or weakness (Tr. 589, 593, 597, 601, 605,
609, 611, 621). Examinations consistently showed he was
alert, oriented to time and place, and not in acute distress
and had either 1 or 2 pitting edema but otherwise normal
cardiovascular, vascular, and neurological findings, along
with normal gait (Tr. 589-90, 593-94, 597-98, 601- 02,
605-06, 609-10, 612).
connection with his current application for benefits,
Plaintiff underwent physical and psychological consultative
examinations in July and August 2013, respectively. Robert L.
Nold, M.D., found Plaintiff had limitation of neck and
shoulder motion, a fine tremor in both hands, and
discoloration of his lower legs, but normal muscle bulk and
tone and full (5/5) grip strength (Tr. 300). Plaintiff had
decreased (3/5) strength in his legs, but he had a normal
gait and did not use a cane or have a limp (Tr. 301). Dr.
Nold opined that Plaintiff was limited to lifting 20 to 25
pounds occasionally and five to 10 pounds frequently. He
thought Plaintiff could stand for an hour at a time and for
four hours in an eight-hour workday, and that kneeling may be
somewhat difficult (Tr. 302).
Sahner, Psy.D., found Plaintiff performed poorly on the
mental status examination. He did not know the date and the
year and his performance on the concentration tasks was so
poor he had to be asked to concentrate harder (Tr. 312).
Plaintiff relied on his wife to provide more of the history
and information, although at times, Plaintiff intervened and
indicated what she was saying was not correct. Plaintiff
presented as mildly agitated and indicated he had very angry
thoughts. He had an adequate fund of information and
demonstrated normal abstract thinking and intact reality
testing (Tr. 313). Dr. Sahner noted that Plaintiff's
effort was inconsistent during the examination as there were
times when he responded quickly and did not appear to put too
much effort into the response and other times when his
response appeared to be adequate and genuine (Tr. 314). Dr.
Sahner assessed mood disorder and polysubstance dependence in
remission and assigned a GAF score of 50 to 51. She opined
that Plaintiff had adequate ability to understand, remember,
and carry out instructions towards the performance of simple
repetitive tasks, although there should not be a long delay
between the onset of the task and the instruction (Tr. 314).
Dr. Sahner thought Plaintiff's ability to interact
appropriately with others in a workplace setting was markedly
affected due to irritability, impulsivity, and personality
issues and his ability tolerate stress and pressure of
employment was markedly affected due to difficulties with
mood and impulse control. She indicated that Plaintiff's
ability to sustain attention and concentration towards the
performance of simple repetitive tasks was moderately
affected (Tr. 315).
agency medical consultants reviewed Plaintiff's medical
records and provided opinions about Plaintiff's mental
and physical limitations. In September 2013, Lea Perritt,
Ph.D., opined that Plaintiff was limited to simple tasks with
infrequent changes in routine and work that involves only
occasional interaction with others. She also thought
Plaintiff should not work in a fast-paced environment (Tr.
378). Allen Dawson, M.D., also reviewed Plaintiff's
records and assessed limitations consistent with a range of
light work with additional postural and environmental
restrictions (Tr. 367-73). In December 2013, psychologist Ed
Ross, Ph.D., concluded that Plaintiff was restricted to
simple tasks with infrequent changes to routine and no
exposure to fast paced environments with accommodates
occasional contact with others (Tr. 497). P. Saranga M.D.,
assessed limitations consistent with a range of light work
with additional postural and environmental limitations (Tr.
hearing held on July 1, 2015, Plaintiff testified that he
stopped working as a truck driver because he passed out at
the wheel and caused an accident (Tr. 681). He said that he
had extreme chest pain everyday along with numbness in his
arms, and swelling in his legs. Plaintiff indicated that
nitroglycerin eased his pain for a couple of hours (Tr. 685).
He estimated that he could sit for 20 minutes at a time and
stand for 20 minutes at a time (Tr. 687). Plaintiff thought
he could lift no more than five to 10 pounds (Tr. 689). He
testified that he showered only every three to four days
because it caused his feet to swell and become discolored
(Tr. 692). Plaintiff indicated that his wife did all the
housework and cleaning. He reported that he had to lie down
several times a day, three to four days a week because of
fatigue and lightheadedness (Tr. 694-95).
expert Julian M. Nadolsky, Ed.D., testified in response to a
series of hypothetical questions, one of which concerned an
individual of Plaintiff's vocational profile who could do
light work with additional environmental, postural, and
mental limitations (Tr. 706). The expert testified that the
individual could do the unskilled light jobs of electrical